You Wish, by Mandy Hubbard

I’m still doing last minute things for the release of Skipping the Scales, and I haven’t read anything new in a while, so I’m back with a review of another book that I read and adored before I started blogging.

Also, it’s MERMAID MONTH here at the Stuff, and the story of how/why I bought a copy of this particular book connects to mermaids—my own mermaid books, actually. While I was writing Flipping the Scales back in the summer of 2013, a writer friend of mine told me about a book called You Wish, which included a girl who wished she was a mermaid.

I bought it immediately.

Well, my friend’s statement was only partially accurate. Though it’s true that main character Kayla wished to be a mermaid at one point in her past, this is NOT a book about mermaids. Far from it. However, it’s an absolutely adorable book with a really solid lesson that totally disarmed me.

The story starts on Kayla’s sixteenth birthday. Kayla is a cynical outsider, and she mocks the popular social sphere. Dare I say she’s even a little unlikeable at the start of the story, but I’ll grant that she has valid reasons to be cynical. Her father left years earlier, and her mother dealt with it by redecorating the house and her life. Now a party planner, Kayla’s mom uses Kayla’s birthday to showcase a sweet sixteen party to potential clients, but the overly pink party that mom throws completely clashes with Kayla’s personality and wishes.

That leads Kayla to realize that none of her wishes come true. Fifteen previous birthday wishes have been made with nothing to show for them—well, technically fourteen, since she probably didn’t make one at her first birthday party. So she wishes for her birthday wishes to come true.

And they do.

First off, this premise of wishes gone bad is one that I absolutely love. I recently reviewed a new book where wishes made by partying high school students, some drunk and some not, came true in wild, crazy, and dangerous ways. Here, we have a succession of wishes coming true, one day at a time, all made by the same girl at various stage of her life—toddler, grade-school, pre-teen, and teen. What could she have wished for?

Bigger boobs? Yeah, a pre-teen girl could conceivably wish for that. One morning, she wakes up with them, and of course the popular girls notice.

Being a mermaid? Yeah, a seven-year-old girl would wish for that. Kayla doesn’t go full mermaid, but blue scales develop when her feet and legs get wet, making bathing after that impossible.

Having toys that come to life? Yeah, toddlers would wish for that. Enter a life-size My Little Pony, Ken in a convertible, and Raggedy Ann—arguably the scene-stealing best character of the book! How does she keep them from drawing more attention to her?

Kissing Ben? Yeah, a teen girl would wish for that. Kayla was fifteen when she did. And here’s the biggest problem of them all: Ben is currently the boyfriend of Kayla’s best friend Nicole.

So Kayla has to find a way to stop the wishes from coming true before that one does, find a way to reverse the inconvenient and troublesome wishes, and deal with the typical teen angst issues of parental relationships, boyfriends (or lack thereof), popularity, and generally fitting in. Yes, it’s a silly premise. And yes, it gets madcap hilarious. However, author Hubbard infuses it with a lot of heart, especially when the wishes pertain to Kayla’s absent father and at the climactic moments of the book.

The tradition is to keep birthday wishes inside so they’ll come true. The characters—believable teens—are so preoccupied with how they’re externally perceived that they don’t easily reveal their internal feelings. Kayla’s wishes symbolize those inner feelings. She’s not the only one hiding true feelings. Nicole has become distant because of something she’s hiding. Ben’s hiding something too. And so is Kayla’s mom, still dealing with the aftermath of her husband running out on her.

I love YA contemporary with a magical realism flair, and Hubbard perfectly sequences the plot through the wishes and brings life to these characters. I wish that you’d all check out You Wish, which I give FIVE STARS.

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You Wish is available at Amazon.

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